I have been running a chemistry experiment of sorts for a week.

I have three very favorite vintage white blouses (two made of cotton and one poly/cotton blend) dating from the 1940s and 50s. All three of these I wore quite often more than six years ago. Their lengthy careers ended abruptly when somehow they got into a warm wash load with bleach.

Have you seen what happens to very subtle underarms stains when they are bleached? Those subtle underarm stains turn an angry shade of yellow that refuses to be removed.

Yes, denisebrain sweats. There I said it.
However I love these three blouses so much that I kept them on the off chance I would find a new solution to their problem.

Because of my resolve to help my fix-me pile this month, I decided to give many solutions a try on these blouses. I like to start from the least toxic alternative and work my way into the nasty stuff.

First it was baking soda paste (with water). If you have unbleached fairly recent underarms stains this can work, but for me this time...nada.

Then it was a slightly diluted white vinegar soak. The blouses smelled like tossed salad and the stains didn’t budge at all.

Next I got out other non-bleach stain removers. Ammonia has been recommended to me by dry cleaners for washable sweat-stained clothing. I gave the ammonia several chances. Then I used Pit Stop, among other things.

PitStop (now called Raise) is, for many cases of recent sweat stains, very effective on washable clothing. However, I’m truly disturbed that the ingredients are not listed on the bottle. Thanks to an about.com page by Mary Marlowe Leverette, I know that the active ingredients are:

- sodium hydroxide, also known as lye or caustic soda
- cocamidopropyl betine, a synthetic surfactant derived from coconut oil and dimethylaminopropylamine
- EDTA or Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, a polyamino carboxylic acid

Rubber gloves, open doors, a breathing mask and multiple attempts later...nothing. It didn’t even begin to budge these old bleach-set stains.

Finally in desperation I searched online using terms like “stubborn,” “old,” “bleach-set,” “impossible,” “horrendous”... OK, so I exaggerate slightly. I found The Art of Manliness blog on the subject. With the writer’s six year-old yellowed stains he had no success with ammonia but he had great success with a less toxic solution: OxiClean.

So into the OxiClean went my blouses. In two full days I saw maybe some letting up. In the meantime, I could at least breathe around the soaking solution, so I let the blouses stay in the solution for five days. After five days...100% success! The blouses are cleaner than the’ve ever been and those bleach-set sweat stains finally packed up and went home.

I could practically cry for joy to get these favorite blouses back! It is true that the more epic the effort the better it feels to achieve the goal. I feel pretty good!

Do you have any fabulous stain removal tricks? Come on, I just told you one of mine!